Digital Health

How Practices are Increasing Access to Physical Therapy through Digital Health

Paige Brabant
By Paige Brabant
Reviewed by Dozie Ezerioha, MD
Jun 25, 2021

Physical therapy can be both preventative and restorative for a variety of injuries and medical conditions. Doctors will often prescribe physical therapy as a conservative approach to avoid more invasive and expensive surgeries. Also, people may utilize physical therapy to manage chronic pain and improve function after an injury. Currently, there are barriers that hinder the effectiveness of physical therapy, including a shortage of physical therapists/therapy locations, a lack of access or awareness about options, time limitations, and issues around patient adherence. Recently, innovative digital health companies have created platforms to address these barriers, and enhance the effects of pain management through physical therapy. Reflexion, Kaia Health, Hinge Health, Sword, Physera, and Physitrack, are currently considered the leaders in this space.

Some of the companies, including Physitrack, Reflexion, and Physera connect patients to physical therapists digitally and give them access to exercises to treat their conditions. These services give patients the scheduling flexibility to attend physical therapy sessions on demand.[1] For patients who have constraints preventing them from attending and completing physical therapy in person, these virtual therapy sessions help overcome those barriers. These platforms could also improve the remuneration of physical therapists, helping attract quality students to the profession. Hinge Health and Sword utilize wearable devices to supplement their telemedicine approach,[4] allowing the physical therapist to make appropriate adjustments to form in real-time.

Perhaps the most interesting is Kaia’s multimodal approach to target the mind-body connection, and their AI tools designed to track biomarkers that will further elucidate patterns through large-scale data analysis.[3] Digital biomarker technology may provide patients and their doctors with invaluable insights to guide preventative medicine. This is exciting because it takes the implications of digital health technology one-step further from generating effective physical therapy remotely. Kaia Health seeks to also gather knowledge about disease incidence, progression, and outcomes by continually tracking range of motion, balance, and stability. Kaia Health can use this information to direct patients to useful clinical trials, connect patients with health care providers, and track outcomes to help individualize patients’ health care policy plans cutting unnecessary spending in the process.

Digital tools in physical therapy give insight into this ever-evolving intersection of medicine and technology. Research continues to support the use of telehealth tools in alleviating excessive costs in healthcare and freeing time for health care providers to be more effective. A company like Kaia Health shows how we can go even further by implementing AI technology.


References

1. Congress taking action to grow physical therapy workforce. link Accessed July 31, 2020.
2. Digital therapy company Reflexion launches Hello PT. link Accessed July 31, 2020.
3. Telehealth in physical therapy in light of COVID-19. link Accessed July 31, 2020.
4. Can telehealth make Physical Therapy more effective? . link Accessed July 31, 2020

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Paige Brabant
written by
Paige Brabant
Paige has interests in how medicine and cutting-edge technology can be combined to further our understanding of neurological conditions. She holds a BSc. in Biology from Wake Forest University.
Dozie Ezerioha, MD
reviewed by
Dozie Ezerioha, MD
Physician, innovator, industry analyst & entrepreneur, Dozie is an accomplished healthcare executive focused on improving physician adoption of health technology. Likes to think he can code.